February 24, 2009

"Rumsfeld Wing" for Baghdad Museum?

Postmodern ruins could symbolize Bush Era

After the American Century

This week the partially looted museum of antiquities "reopened" in Baghdad. Only special guests could see the collections, however. Before the invasion, world archaeologists warned the Pentagon that it needed to be protected. It was not. That looted museum is perhaps a fitting symbol of the Bush years. The former director fled Iraq due to threats to his family, and now teaches on Long Island. The museum itself is not ready to receive tourists, due to security concerns.

One of the many ignoble moments of the Iraq War and its aftermath was Donald Rumsfeld's response to reports that priceless collections had been looted. "Stuff happens" he said. That formulation denies human action and responsibility. But "stuff" does not happen. Rather, generals make mistakes, ignore advice, and are directly responsible for the destruction of cultural heritage. And for as long as people remain interested in the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, Donald Rumsfeld will be remembered as a modern barbarian.

Indeed, they ought to build a special wing in his honor. In the "Rumsfeld 'Stuff' Wing" would be placards next to empty spaces and broken pedestals, each describing missing objects. In the center of the room one could place shattered objects, broken in the thieves' scramble. Such a monument would best be placed underground and lit only by broken skylights. Very deconstructive and postmodern.

To save architectural fees in these difficult times, one might build an identical "W" wing somewhere between 9/11 and Wall Street, and place there valueless commercial paper from failed banks, copies of auditor's reports from Lehman Brothers, and repossessed furniture from executive offices. There should be a place, too, for framed copies of some of the millions of dollars in bonus checks issued to the MBAs who masterminded the mortgage market. Indeed, why not inscribe the names of all who received these infamous checks on walls, in alphabetical order, together with the size of their bonuses, so that every Americans can come and see who they were. It seems only fair, as the American people bailed them out.

Click here for more about the "reopened" museum.